Packing Tips for the Best College Dorm Room

I’m happy to report that at least for tonight, my writer’s block has been broken. It occurred to me that there are a lot of college dorm packing lists floating around on the Internet, and as someone who just finished their freshman year of college, I can tell you that they all suck.

They’re either tying to sell you something or half of the things they tell you to bring are completely unnecessary. So I wanted to give my own college packing tips, so future freshman can avoid bringing too much, pointless stuff.

1.) Make sure you know the list of things you can and can’t have in dorms.
I cannot tell you how many lists and tips I’ve read that mention things like “bring your own coffee pot to save money” or “candles make the atmosphere more comfortable”. Shut up. Just shut up now. If it presents any sort of fire hazard, chances are you aren’t allowed to have it in your dorm. That includes coffee pots and candles. Duh.

2.) Kitchenware and dining stuff and bringing your own food.
Chances are they’re gonna be useless. It may sound like a good idea, “I’m gonna eat my own food so I can save money!” or “I’m gonna make my own food and be healthy.” Nope, not gonna happen. Unless you’re one of the lucky freshmen who gets to live in an apartment style room, you will have a microwave to cook with and that’s it. You don’t need cooking utensils, you don’t need thousands of plates. All you need it maybe a mug and some plastic silverware. Trust me, you’ll get sick of the campus food eventually, but by the time that happens, you’ll have discovered something called “eating off campus”. Eating in your room sounds like a good idea until you realize 1.) it’s super antisocial, 2.) it’s a bitch to make your own food, and 3.) you have to do dishes after you eat. Not to mention, if your college is anything like OSU, your freshman year you’ll be required to have something called a meal plan. Whatever method of payment your school uses (OSU formerly used “swipes”), it probably doesn’t roll over from quarter to quarter or semester to semester. Which means unless you use it all up, you’re wasting money. Leave the kitchen stuff at home. You won’t use it.

3.) Leave the giant furniture at home.
At OSU, dorm rooms come stocked with university furniture. That furniture is generally not allowed to leave your room. Which means you DO NOT need to bring your own desk, bed frame, shit like that. Because even if you go to the trouble of storing the furniture on your own (because the university won’t offer storage), you still have the problem of moving it back into your room at the end of the year, because the rooms have to look like you found them after you move out.

4.) Dorm rooms are small. Don’t forget to bring storage/organization pieces.
Hate to break it to you, but your dorm room will not look like the ones in the magazines. Your room will probably be tiny, and there will be a severe lack of places to put things. That was one of my biggest complaints my freshman year, I had nowhere to put things, no organization. So my room stayed messy and felt even smaller. Try your damnedest to find out what the storage situation is before you go. Will you have a closet? A chest of drawers? What do the desks look like? Usually the hall director or RA will know. And then buy shit to organize with. Trust me, you will need places to put things (other than on the floor).

5.) Decorations are more important than you think.
The other biggest complaint about my freshman dorm room I had was the fact that it wasn’t comfortable. You don’t need half the decorations they try to sell you at stores, but you do need to try and make the room more comfortable, especially if you’re lofting your bed. Trust me, when you want somewhere comfortable to sit, you won’t want to climb the mountain that is your lofted bed, and generally any chairs the university provides you with will suck in the comfort department as well. Obviously what you will be able to bring will be contingent upon the stuff already in your dorm room and what you can fit in your car. Make sure you know your dorm room’s floor plan so you don’t wind up trying to fit a futon in a space the size of a desk chair. Also, spend some money on a rug if your room doesn’t have carpet already. Dorm floors are not comfortable. Your feet will start to hurt if they don’t get a little reprieve in the form of a rug.

Also, in regards to actual decorations, it’s okay to bring some, but wait to get most of them until after you move in. It’s impossible to know how much wall or floor space you’ll ultimately wind up with, and there’s no point in spending money on things you might not get to use. There are plenty of cute decorations on amazon that you can buy cheap, and have delivered quickly, after you move in.

6.) Don’t bring stupid stuff.
One list I’ve referenced in the past tells you to bring a sleeping bag and a surge protector among other pointless things. Why?? Why do you need a sleeping bag?? You’re not gonna use it. Is it for visiting friends?? Sleeping in a sleeping bag on a laminate floor isn’t fun. About the only time people in college people have “sleep overs” is when they’re too drunk to make it back to their own room. And a surge protector?? Everyone in college (unless they’re a serious gamer or computer nerd) uses laptops. You don’t need a desk top. You don’t need a surge protector. If its storming, then unplug your laptop until it stops.

7.) Other random tips.
• Consider how far you’ll have to go to do laundry. At OSU, the laundry facilities are always in the basement/ground floor. It is not fun to haul 2 weeks worth of clothes down several floors (even with an elevator) to the washers and dryers. Choose your laundry bag accordingly.
• Extension cords are your best friend.
• You don’t need a duvet cover or extra sheets or extra towels. Get off your lazy ass and wash them.
• If you think you can survive, leave the TV at home. It takes up space and promotes antisocial behavior. There are things called Netflix and friends.
• Label all the boxes with what things you put in them so at the end of the year, you know what box what thing goes in. It makes packing easier.
• Bring a ruler. You’ll be surprised how often you’ll need to measure something.
• Bring flip flops. I don’t care if, like my ex boyfriend, you think you are immune to foot diseases. Bring flip flops. It’s gross to shower without them.

And one last tip,
If you didn’t use it at home, you won’t use it at college.
Stores are really good at selling things, and they’ll make you believe you need stuff for college that you’ve never even heard of. If you made it 18 years without using whatever-it-is, you won’t need it in your college dorm room.

Trust me.


About emilleejoyce

I am a yoga alliance 200 hour certified yoga teacher whose hobbies include growing cacti and succulents, cooking vegan food, and bicycling. My day job is in academic publishing.

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